By Salad Duhul
Mogadishu, 10 November 2006 - Hundreds of Somali women took to the streets on Friday to express their support for the weak transitional government, urging the international community not to neglect the administration challenged by a powerful Islamic movement.
The peaceful rally, organised by female members of the transitional parliament, was held in Baidoa, the only city controlled by Somalia's internationally backed government.
"We call on the world to fully support the transitional government until it stands on its own feet, because that will serve the interest of women in the country," said Khadija Mohammed Diriye, a member of the Somali parliament.
She spoke to about 500 white-clad demonstrators, who were chanting "success for the government."
Seventy militiamen defected from the transitional government and joined the Council for Islamic Courts on Thursday. Islamic judge Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal said the men were sent to Mogadishu to be incorporated into the Islamic courts militia.
General Ismail Qasim Naji, chief of staff of the government army, confirmed the defection, saying the men refused to attend formal training.
Ethiopian military advisers have been training militiamen to become a new national army. Diriye said Ethiopia's assistance was welcome.
"We thank neighbouring countries for the support they render to our government, especially we thank Ethiopia," she said.
"The world has to heed our call and not turn a blind eye to our suffering," said Qamar Adan Ali, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the Somali parliament.
One of the top leaders in the Islamic courts, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, told local radio station HornAfrik early Friday that the United States mistakenly thinks the Islamic courts harbour terrorists. The Islamic courts have demanded that Ethiopia troops leave the country before they will participate in peace talks and Ahmed said the US could help the peace process.
The United States "can pressure the Ethiopian government to stop its interference in Somalia's affairs. This could pave the way for success in the ... peace talks," he said. –